First tango in Paris! Galactico stage finally belongs to Hazard

first_imgParis Saint-Germain and Real Madrid have been severely hampered by injury and suspension in the run-up to their glamour Champions League tie on Wednesday night at Parc des Princes.It should have been the most attractive game of the round, given the star quality in both camps. However, the squads look more ICC than Champions League even at this early stage of the season.PSG have spent big – too big according to some of those willing UEFA to rein them in – on talents like Edinson Cavani, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. In those three, Thomas Tuchel is in possession of a strike force capable of matching the output of Liverpool’s but he has been denied the opportunity to use them together. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Are Chelsea this season’s Ajax? Super-subs Batshuayi & Pulisic show Blues can dare to dream Time for another transfer? Giroud’s Chelsea spell set to end like his Arsenal career Cavani and Mbappe are still injured having gone off at the end of August in a Ligue 1 game against Toulouse. Neymar, meanwhile, has shaken off the foot trouble that ruled him out of the Copa America for Brazil but is under suspension in the Champions League following his reaction to PSG’s elimination to Manchester United last season.With those three out it means a slightly surreal sight for some British football fans might well transpire, with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting – relegated with Stoke City – starting up front.Madrid’s problems are stark too. It’s no secret that Zinedine Zidane has a core which he trusts, a core he will adhere to for as long as he can. But that core – a triple-Champions League winning core – is ruptured.Marco Asensio is of course a long-term injury absentee but Zidane’s plans have been furthered weakened.Sergio Ramos is suspended following his high jinks against Ajax in last season’s first knockout round. However, even if Ramos was permitted to play he would not be fit in any case.Zinedine Zidane Real Madrid 2019-20Fellow centre-back Nacho Fernandez is also ruled out through suspension meaning a makeshift central defensive duo of Raphael Varane and Eder Militao will be on show.To that injury list you can add Marcelo, who will cede his place in the line-up to the newly-acquired Ferland Mendy. Isco has had minutes in the league under Zidane this season but is injured too. The creative burden will instead fall to James Rodriguez, who is one of only three midfielders named in the travelling party for Paris alongside Toni Kroos and Casemiro.Luka Modric, the Ballon d’Or holder, is not playing either having been injured in the weekend win over Levante, as was Federico Valverde.Zidane and club president Florentino Perez may well be counting the cost of their failure to offload high earners like Gareth Bale and James over the summer, as they could not bring in a midfield player like Paul Pogba or Christian Eriksen instead.As things stand, Madrid look thin in that area and will be hoping for no more disruptions. The upshot of those two staying, at least, is that both have played well, with Bale scoring goals and James providing a bit of spark through the centre.So Zidane will be forced into deviating from his favoured line-up and actually using some of the €300 million-plus signings brought in over the summer. As well as Militao and Mendy, there will probably be a start for Eden Hazard.His own new-club preparations were curtailed due to a thigh injury in the off-season and, even before that, he looked well short of fitness in his friendly outings.But he was on hand to make his debut as a substitute at the weekend and, even if Madrid struggled to close out the game, the feedback on Hazard’s impact was solid.He made the trip to Belgium last week as the national team checked on his fitness ahead of their games against San Marino and Scotland, but it was decided that he should be held back.They didn’t miss him, racking up consecutive 4-0 wins, but Madrid could certainly use him this week.The most expensive player in their history, a unique dribbling talent, if Hazard has designs on winning Madrid fans over after a sluggish start, now would be the perfect time.The Galactico stage, finally, belongs to Eden Hazard.last_img read more

Zaha’s head ‘all over the place’ after failed Arsenal move

first_imgWilfried Zaha admitted that his head was “a bit all over the place” at the beginning of the season following a summer full of transfer speculation.The forward was heavily linked to Arsenal all summer, only for Crystal Palace to reject all bids for the Ivorian star.Everton were also said to be interested in Zaha, who has featured in all six of his side’s Premier League matches this season.  Article continues below Editors’ Picks Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Are Chelsea this season’s Ajax? Super-subs Batshuayi & Pulisic show Blues can dare to dream Time for another transfer? Giroud’s Chelsea spell set to end like his Arsenal career Zaha admitted that he struggled mentally at the start of the season but with the campaign now in full swing, he is determined to prove himself once again as a player for Palace.”I had to put my head down and play my football,” Zaha told BBC Africa .”I would have been hindering my own progress by moaning and not wanting to perform properly.”I have too much respect for my manager, the fans and my team-mates to treat them that way. It was a thing where ‘OK, this hasn’t happened but I’ve got to get on with it’.”I’ve got to prove every time that I’m the top player I claim to be so I had to get over that quickly. Obviously my head was a bit all over the place at the beginning of the season but I had to nail down and just get on with it because the team deserved that.”Zaha originally came through as a Crystal Palace player before joining Manchester United in 2013.However, that Old Trafford stint proved a failed one, with the forward returning to Selhurst Park just two years later.And, despite the summer of transfer rumours, Zaha insists that he’s focused on his goals with Palace, not another chance with a big club.”I’m seeing how it goes. I’m a Crystal Palace player and I’m just trying to perform to the best of my ability for my club,” he added. “I’m not thinking about anything else and just taking each day as it comes.”The season’s gone well so far. We’ve got a lot more in us and I’m happy with the squad and everyone’s happy with where we are right now.”All I can do is perform on the pitch. I’m trying to be a consistent performer on the pitch week in, week out.”Last season I set myself a target of 10 goals and managed to get 10, so I was happy. Hopefully I can reach my goals again – that’s all that’s on my mind.”Crystal Palace are set to host Manchester City and visit Arsenal in the club’s first two matches following the conclusion of the international break. Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries.last_img read more